Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Video: Christopher Hitchens debates William Dembski: does God exist?

Here’s the video:

Details:

  • Opening statements – 15 minutes
  • First rebuttal – 10 minutes
  • Second rebuttal – 5 minutes
  • Q&A – 30 minutes

Summary of Hitchens’ opening speech, snarkified and with spin removed

Contentions:

  1. God has to make the universe the way I would, but he didn’t.
  2. I don’t like some things that people who claim to be religious do.

Arguments from science:

The fact that our current universe is running out of usable energy (entropy) means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should go on forever.

The fact that the universe is a very big place means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should be very small.

The fact that the universe is a very old place means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should be very young.

The fact that the universe contains exploding stars means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should not contain exploding stars.

The fact that the universe is expanding means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the universe should not be expanding.

The fact that the Earth is a small rock means that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that the Earth should not be a small rock.

Arguments from history:

Although I don’t believe that there is any objective standard of right and wrong, I personally feel that Islamic terrorism is yucky yuck yuck. It’s just my opinion though, since there is no objective standard of morality on atheism, but only arbitrary personal preferences and arbitrary customs that vary by time and place. Since these Muslim terrorists claim to be acting on behalf of God, and I don’t like what they do, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Although I don’t believe that there is any objective standard of right and wrong, I personally feel that Israeli military expansion is yucky yuck yuck. It’s just my opinion though, since there is no objective standard of morality on atheism, but only arbitrary personal preferences and arbitrary customs that vary by time and place. Since these Israeli military expansionists claim to be acting on behalf of God, and I don’t like what they do, therefore God doesn’t exist.

Arguments from the human condition:

Although I said a minute ago that we should be cautious about the good experimental science that supports theism by showing that the universe came into being from nothing, fine-tuned for complex life, based on multiple lines of experimental evidence, I actually think that Darwinian evolution is true beyond a shadow of a doubt, based on ZERO lines of experimental evidence for macro-evolution (the evolution of new body plans and organ types). But since Darwinism is definitely true – as true as man-made global warming! – then God couldn’t exist. Why? Because God would not use a gradual process to create life, because I wouldn’t use a gradual process to create life. God, if he existed, would always do what I would do if I were God. Also, we are similar to chimpanzees which proves that molecules to man evolution is true. Certainly there is no peer-reviewed evidence that human and chimpanzee DNA are actually very different. (Note that the link goes to Nature, the #1 peer-reviewed science journal).

When you were in your mother’s womb, you grew some hair and then it fell off, proving there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that babies should not grow hair in their mother’s womb, only to have it fall off.

Humans have appendices that have no purpose that is apparent to me, based on my vast experience with biology gleaned from writing snarky columns. Since I don’t see a purpose to your appendix – certainly there is no peer-reviewed evidence that the appendix has any useful biological purpose – therefore God does not exist.

When you were a child, you grew some teeth and then they fell off, proving there is no God, because God, if he existed, would agree with me that children should not grow teeth, only to have them fall off.

There are a lot of species that go extinct in the history of life and this proves that there is no God, because God, if he existed, would not have wanted lots of species to go extinct.

The smart theistic evolutionist Francis Collins believes in Darwinian evolution and he’s smart. I can’t give you any reasons why he believes in Darwinian evolution right now, but you should definitely believe in evolution because of his authority and his skill at avoiding debates on evolution with his critics in the intelligent design movement.

You need to be more humble like me, you ignorant fools. If you simply read more cosmology, physics, chemistry and biology, like we clever journalists have, then you would be a smart atheist like me! And humble, too, you ignorant, illiterate fundamentalists!

Summary of Dembski’s opening speech

Contentions:

  1. Evolution is false, Hitchens’ proofs from his book don’t work.
  2. Hitchens makes historical claims that are falsified by the evidence.
  3. The progress of science falsifies atheism
  4. Theism explains the big question of life better than atheism

Darwinian evolution vs. the evidence:

Junk DNA is not junk because the latest peer-reviewed scientific evidence shows that the so-called Junk-DNA actually has important functions in the cell. (Note that the link goes to Nature, the #1 peer-reviewed science journal).

The fossil record does not show a gradual pattern of emerging body plans because the latest evidence on the Cambrian explosion shows that new body plans emerged fully-formed without gradual developmental pathways.

The inverted retina is not a bad design, the counter-intuitive design actually is superior when the latest published research is considered.

Hitchens’ argument about the evolution of the eye rely on mathematical simulations, not on experimental evidence.

Hitchens is committed to Darwinism whether there is any evidence or not, because he pre-supposes materialism, so some form of evolution MUST be true, regardless of how lousy the observable evidence is for it.

Historical arguments:

Hitchens dismisses Israel’s time in Egypt and at Mount Sinai, but the evidence is written up in books like those of James K. Hoffmeier, published by Oxford University Press.

Hitchens dismisses the historical records about Jesus, but these are again made clear in publications of top academic presses. (E.g. – N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, etc.)

The progress of science falsifies atheism:

Atheism requires that chemical evolution be true. Darwin thought that cells were simple because he needed them to be simple for this theory, and he didn’t know anything about what cells were really like. But the progress of science has shown that the complexity of cells is enormous.

You can actually use rigorous methods developed by Bill in his book “The Design Inference”, published by Cambridge University Press, and apply them to effects in nature, like archaeological artifacts, radio signals from space, and… cells and molecular machines.

When you apply the mathematical methods for inferring design to biology in books like “Signature in the Cell” or “The Design of Life”, components of living systems are found to be designed for a purpose.

The big questions are answered better by theism than atheism:

Other arguments: the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the moral argument, the argument from rationality/reason, the argument from mathematical foundations of reality, the argument from the the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, etc.

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8 Responses

  1. Paradox says:

    Why anybody would debate a person who is basing their views on so emotional a reaction is beyond me.

    I bet the other people who read this will notice that ultimately Mr. Hitchens just asserted: “The christian god (or at least, my caricature of him), is disagreeable to me. Therefore, no gods of any form whatsoever exist.” Hmm, maybe I’m just THAT strange, but I find the use of caricatures of theology very common in the world today.

  2. Debilis says:

    I’ve not yet watched this particular debate, but that does sound very much like Hitchens’ logic. Part of me wants to applaud his ability to make such obviously and demonstrably invalid logic sound plausible.

  3. Seth says:

    I think Hitchens was a terrific orator, writer, and he was humorous. He had the ability to grab your attention; you wanted to know what he was going to say even if you didn’t agree with his position on the issue you still wanted to listen to him. However, being a good speaker, a good story-teller, and having the ability to stir someone’s emotions doesn’t mean what you’re saying is true or even a good argument. That, in my opinion, is where Hitchens was at in the marketplace/battleground of ideas.

    Hitchens, while his arguments for atheism and against theism weren’t strong, he did fit the mold of many atheists that I encounter in person and on the interwebz. It’s an atheism that is against strong anti-intellectual, mystical, irrational fundamentalism instead of theism in particular. This atheism attacks strawmen for the most part instead of classical Christianity. Put another way, it’s an atheism against how people live out the theistic religion instead of the actual philosophy of the theistic religion. Htichens was good at this. It’s easy to attack weirdo religions, but it’s not easy to attack a philosophy of religion (as people seen in the debate between Hitchens and Craig and in this debate), which is why mostly I laugh at the jokes Hitchens tells because I think the weirdos he argued against are weirdos too! Those beliefs aren’t the beliefs I’m persuaded to be our reality.

    Mostly, the atheists I bump into are atheists because the only Christianity they’ve seen is fundamentalist (by fundamentalist I mean every verse in the bible is an isolated literal truth), pentecostal/charismatic, or word-faith and obviously so they saw a horrible misrepresentation of Christianity. I haven’t encountered any atheists who had non-Christian backgrounds but I’m sure non-Christian religions are misrepresented too. Anyway, these atheists mostly just have emotional charges against Christianity like, “That’s not fair,” “Do you really believe in talking snakes?,” “God is mean, arrogant,” etc. I’m not downplaying charges like this because it’s a good thing to discuss stuff like that, but these charges aren’t arguments *against* Christianity instead they are things that aren’t liked about Christianity or that seem silly (like a talking snake) to 20th and 21st century people (though we aren’t as enlightened as we think; we have a lot to learn from the ancients). There are good and serious objections to Christianity like the problem of evil, the philosophy of being, and the philosophy of time to name a few. Christianity stands strong in these areas I think but in these areas and some others ( like philosophy of morality) is where atheism has stronger objections than what we find coming from new atheists who seem to only be non-religious televangelists for atheism. If I was an atheist I would be embarrassed of atheism due to the religiosity of the new atheists.

    • It’s a good thing to be dismissive of Christianity, if Christianity is superstition. The trouble is, it isn’t. But they’ll never know the real arguments for Christianity from reading Dawkins and Hitchens. They have to see it in a debate. To Hitchens’ credit, he is willing to debate.

      • Seth says:

        Correct. I like debates as long as at least one of the debaters is serious. If both are just lodging insults at each other (D’Souza and Barker’s debate…horrible) then it’s a waste of my time.

        I would like to see a debate between Michael Ruse and William Lane Craig. That would be a good debate I think.

        • Your wish is my command:

          Well, that’s William Dembski vs Michael Ruse. Almost as good.I actually didn’t like this debate, but oh well.

          • Seth says:

            Not bad, not bad. Of course, this was on is intelligent design religious. I would like to hear a debate on the merits of intelligent design between these two guys.

          • Michael Ruse isn’t qualified to debate that topic. But you can see the debate between Stephen Meyer and Peter Ward that I posted a while back.

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